Expedition with the first week in the endemic-rich lowland forests of Sulawesi to help with biodiversity surveys, and a second week diving at one of the Opwall marine research centres in the heart of the Coral Triangle.

  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

There are two types of expedition available in South East Sulawesi. One option is to visit the forests Buton for one week and then to head to either the Wakatobi Marine National Park or the reefs of South Buton for the second week. A second option is to combine the two marine sites, spending a week at each.

Forest and marine expedition

Week 1: Forest week

During the first week the teams will complete training and surveys including:

  • Jungle skills training: Students will learn to work safely in a forest research site, how to identify animal tracks and signs, estimate distances, navigate using a compass and identify some of the common bird calls. Exercises are designed to teach students how to make a shelter, find food and water, make a fire and cook in the forest. In addition the students can partake in an optional short course on learning how to ascend into the canopy. Canopy access training costs US$170 or £110 extra for this additional course. Click here to find out more about canopy access.
  • Forest measurements: Students will be working in teams completing measurements of 50m x 50m quadrats to collect data on the diameter at breast height of all woody species, canopy height, quantity of vegetation at different heights from a touch pole, canopy density, evidence of disturbance (e.g. cut stumps) and sapling density.
  • Butterfly surveys: Students will be helping with pollard counts of butterflies.
  • Bird surveys: Students will be working with an experienced ornithologist completing point count surveys where all birds seen or heard are identified.
  • Herpetofauna surveys: Students will be working with an experienced herpetologist emptying pitlines, completing standard time scan searches and also spotlighting at night for frogs.
  • Megafauna surveys: Students will be walking quietly along transects to record large mammals and birds (macaques and hornbills) using distance based sampling. Signs (footprints and droppings) of other species (anoa and wild pig) will be recorded and patch occupancy analysis used to identify their abundance. In addition camera traps have been set at some of the camps and their use to estimate abundance of large mammals will also be demonstrated.
  • Bat surveys: Students will be shown how harp trapping and mist netting for bats can be used to determine bat communities. How captured bats are removed, handled, identified and morphometric measurements recorded will be demonstrated.

In addition to the above practicals the students will also complete a course in camp on Wallacea Wildlife including lectures on Indonesia and the Wallacea region, plant and insect biodiversity, vertebrate diversity, impacts and invasives and a conservation synthesis. All of the lectures are based on primary research conducted in the area.

Week 2: Marine week

During their marine week students will be completing one of the following options:

  • PADI Open Water dive training course: This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and open water dives to gain an official scuba diving qualification.
  • Indo-Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course: This consists of lectures and in-water practicals either by diving (if a qualified diver) or snorkelling. The lectures cover an introduction to coral reef ecosystems, coral and algal species, mangrove and seagrass ecology, economically important invertebrates, identification of coral reef fish, reef survey techniques, threats to reefs and marine conservation. Following each lecture the students will then complete an in-water practical by diving (if already qualified) or by snorkelling.
  •  PADI Open Water referral course: For this option students need to arrive having already completed their theory and pool training components. This course takes three days to complete, after which students will join the Indo-Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course practicals.

For information on an Indonesia marine only expedition, please click here

Indonesia - Wallacea Terrestrial Research Objectives

The Wallacea region comprises islands of the central part of the Indonesian archipelago that are separated by deep ocean trenches which prevented them from being joined to the main continental land masses during the lowered sea levels of the Ice Ages. As a result of subsequently long periods of isolation, a large number of unique species evolved. The forests of the Wallacea region are one of the least biologically studied areas in the world and one of the most likely places to discover vertebrate species new to science. Since 1995, the Opwall teams have been surveying the biodiversity of Buton Island in SE Sulawesi, so that more information is now available on the wildlife of this well studied area than anywhere else in the Wallacea region. The Opwall gathered data are being used to assess the impacts of potential carbon offset funding schemes in protecting the carbon and biodiversity of the forests and ensure that local communities have a financial benefit from this conservation programme.

Indonesia - Wallacea Marine Research Objectives

There is a triangle of reefs in Eastern Indonesia that have the highest diversity of hard coral genera, the proxy commonly used to assess overall diversity of coral reefs, anywhere in the world. The Hoga Island Marine Station is located in the heart of the Wakatobi Marine National Park. Over the last 20 years, a series of scientists have been based at this site during the Opwall survey seasons and as a result, this is now the most published site in the Coral Triangle. For the last 15 years a series of constant monitoring sites around Hoga and eastern Kaledupa have been monitored for macroinvertebrates, fish communities, coral cover and community structure. The 2021 season will complete this monitoring plus some additional projects.

  • Attend lectures/workshops about the Wallacea region, and its ecology from published research
  • Learn survey methods to sample birds, butterflies, large mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and bats
  • Learn how to conduct habitat surveys and calculate the carbon biomass of an area of forest
  • Learn skills to work and live safely in a remote rainforest research site
  • Live and work with local people and learn about Indonesian culture, customs and language
  • Opportunity to ascend into the canopy, with Canopy Access Ltd (additional cost)
  • Gain an internationally recognised SCUBA qualification
  • Diving and snorkelling within some of the most diverse reefs in the world, at the centre of the Coral Triangle
  • Attend evening lectures given by the science team on marine ecology
  • Participation in the Coral Reef Ecology course
  • Learn how to survey a reef

The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost.

You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements.

If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.



In the tropical rainforests of Indonesia is is generally warm during the day (around 25 degrees Celsius), and humid, with up to 80% humidity. At night the temperatures drop lower, but not usually lower than around 15 degrees Celsius. It rains very frequently, and very heavily at times, but for short periods.

Creature Comforts

The terrestrial sites are basic field camps that enables access to primary rainforest habitats. A camp kitchen, communal eating area and change-rooms are set alongside a river where washing is done after a long day of forest surveys. South and Central Buton guests sleep in hammocks that are set in a large tent in the camp. North Buton guests sleep in camp beds within mosquito nets, in a large tent in camp. The camps have no reliable phone signal.

Fitness level required

High for the forest sites. You will need to hike for long periods, over steep and muddy terrain, at times with your large rucksack.

Marine Sites


At the marine sites during the day, the weather is normally sunny and warm (around 30 degrees Celsius), and the night temperatures drop to around 20-25 degrees Celsius. Being on the coast means there is often a pleasant breeze so it does not always feel this hot. It rains rarely, but when it does it tends to be very heavy for short periods of time.

Fitness level required

Low-Moderate. Some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.

Bau Bau – Creature comforts

Facilities at Pantai Nirwana are very comfortable; shared dorm rooms have beds with a mattress, stand-up showers, and Western style toilets. There is very limited cell phone signal which can usually only be used with an Indonesian SIM card and no Wifi access.

Hoga – Creature comforts

The Hoga Island Marine Station is an established facility that lies within the Wakatobi Marine Park of eastern Indonesia. The station was rebuilt in 2016 and supports a dive centre, lecture theatre, wet-lab as well as a large dining room and kitchen facility. Simple huts owned by members of the local fishing community surround the station and serve as guest accommodation. The island supports reliable phone signal that allows limited internet access.


  • Indonesia
  • Central Buton Forest Camp
  • North Buton Forest Camp
  • South Buton Forest Camp
  • Pantai Nirwana (Bau Bau)
  • Hoga Island Marine Station

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

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